Grand Karem Shrine building

Magnolia Vacation Rentals has entered a contract to buy the Grand Karem Shrine building, built in 1928.

McLennan County commissioners Tuesday set a close date of Nov. 15 to sell the Grand Karem Shrine building and the county’s garage in downtown Waco to Magnolia Vacation Rentals LLC.

Under the contract, Magnolia will purchase the 90-year-old building at 701 Washington Ave. for $930,000 and the neighboring county garage for $500,000, County Attorney Mike Dixon said. Negotiations on the properties started in July.

County Judge Scott Felton said he looks forward to getting the two properties back on the tax rolls.

Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano said the company is still evaluating the properties’ best use.

“There are currently a few different ideas under consideration, but we have not made a final decision yet,” Marsicano said. “We’re excited to about the possibilities of this downtown location and appreciate the support from the county and the city.”

County commissioners also entered into a one-year lease with Magnolia that will give them time to relocate services and personnel at both locations.

The Grand Karem Shrine building houses the county health services department and the child support court and that county garage has been in use since 1987.

County leaders are also looking to move the Texas AgriLife Extension Service office out of its current location at 420 N. Sixth St. and into the former Red Cross and United Way building at 4224 Cobbs Drive after it is remodeled. Commissioners in September approved purchasing the building from the city of Waco for $300,000.

Once the AgriLife building is vacant, the county will gut the interior and transform it into a child support courtroom, Felton said. County officials are still reviewing options for relocating the county health services department, he said.

Building a new garage to replace the downtown location is an option under consideration, Felton said.

Money from the sale would go to the county’s general fund budget, Felton said.

McLennan County and city of Waco leaders in 2016 considered a joint-use project for the mostly empty three-story Grand Karem Shrine building, but high renovation estimates derailed the idea in its early stages.

The contracts for sale and leases Tuesday were approved unanimously. Precinct 2 Commissioner Lester Gibson and Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry were not at the meeting.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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